Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

How Industrial-Scale Tar Production Powered the Viking Age

“Viking Ships Before a Rocky Coast,” by Michael Zeno Diemer (1911)
Image: Wikimedia

Vikings acquired the capacity to produce tar at an industrial scale as early as the 8th century AD, according to new research. The protective black goo was applied to the planks and sails of ships, which the Vikings used for trade and launching raids. Without the ability to produce copious amounts of tar, this new study suggests, the Viking Age may have never happened.

Tar sounds like a relatively modern invention, but it’s actually been around for quite some time. By the 16th century, Europeans had developed a technique whereby piles of wood, placed in funnel-shaped pits, were burned slowly under an oxygen-constricting layer of an earth-clay mixture and charcoal. Dripping tar from the burning wood fell into an outlet pipe, from which the precious material was collected.

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The secret of Viking success? A good coat of tar…

Industrial pits led to waterproofed ships for epic pillaging raids


A replica Viking longboat in the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands. The Norse warrior race dominated European seas in the 8th century. 
Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty

Vikings conquered Europe thanks to an unexpected technological innovation. They learned how to make tar on an industrial scale and used it to waterproof their longships so that they could undertake large-scale, lengthy pillaging trips around Europe – and across the Atlantic, say archaeologists. Norse raiders were the original Boys from the Blackstuff, it transpires.

The discovery is the work of Andreas Hennius, of Uppsala University. In Antiquity, he reports finding critical evidence that shows output from tar pits in Scandinavia increased dramatically just as Vikings began raiding other parts of Europe. These pits could have made up to 300 litres in a single production cycle, enough to waterproof large numbers of ships. “Tar production … developed from a small-scale activity … into large-scale production that relocated to forested outlands during the Viking period,” says Hennius. “This change … resulted from the increasing demand for tar driven by an evolving maritime culture.”

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Norse World goes live!


And the Norse World resource goes live! Today, on 7 November the research infrastructure Norse World is being released with free access for researchers and the members of the public.
Norse World is an interactive spatial-temporal resource for research on spatiality and worldviews in medieval literature from Sweden and Denmark. Go to the map to see for yourself! Or find out more about the project and the Norse World infrastructure.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

AU CŒUR DE MÂCON, UNE NÉCROPOLE GALLO-ROMAINE


Cette fouille a permis de mettre au jour les vestiges de la nécropole dite « des Cordiers », datée de la période antique (Ier-VIe siècles). Ils documentent différentes pratiques funéraires gallo-romaines : les archéologues ont en effet découvert des aires de bûchers funéraires, des urnes cinéraires, des sépultures inhumées en coffrage de bois ainsi qu’un imposant sarcophage en pierre.

UNE NÉCROPOLE DES IER ET VIE SIÈCLES 
La ville gallo-romaine de Mâcon appelée Matisco est bien attestée par des cartes et des textes antiques. Cette agglomération se développe à la fin du Ier siècle avant notre ère, dès la conquête de la Gaule, pour se mettre définitivement en place au milieu du Ier siècle. À Mâcon comme ailleurs, selon les lois et traditions antiques, tandis que l’urbanisation de la ville se fixe intramuros, les nécropoles s’installent à l’extérieur, le long des axes de communications.

La fouille réalisée par l’Inrap va permettre aux scientifiques de documenter la nécropole « des Cordiers », implantée aux abords de la voie menant à Lyon. Les opérations archéologiques réalisées entre 1979 et 1982 ont révélé les premiers vestiges de cette nécropole. Parmi eux, des crémations des Ier et IIe siècle, des inhumations couvrant la période gallo-romaine ainsi que le sarcophage en grès d’un guerrier franc du VIe siècle.

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Do Canadian Carvings Depict Vikings? Removing Mammal Fat May Tell

Credit: Shutterstock

Carvings uncovered in the Canadian Arctic may be the earliest portraits of the Vikings created in the Americas. But archaeologists have been puzzling over whether the artwork really shows the infamous seafarers.

Now, scientists think a simple, flammable liquid called acetone could help solve this mystery by removing sea-mammal oil and fat from these artifacts and other artifacts found near them. Until now, those contaminants have prevented scientists from getting an accurate radiocarbon date, according to a paper published in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Oily problem
The Vikings, along with other peoples who lived in arctic or subarctic environments, used oils and fat from sea mammals for a variety of purposes, including preparing food and cooking. The substances interfere with radiocarbon dating, because rather than getting the date of the artifact, you may get the date for the oil and fat covering the object, study authors Michele Hayeur Smith, Kevin Smith and Gørill Nilsen wrote in the new paper.

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Extraordinary Viking Age Thor’s Hammer Amulet Discovered in Iceland

Photo: Fornleifastofnun Íslands/The Institute of Archaeology, Iceland

A sandstone Thor’s hammer amulet has been found at the Viking-era farmstead Bergsstaðir in Þjórsárdalur valley. The site was last occupied 900 years ago and the amulet is believed to be around the same age. Only one Thor’s hammer has ever been found in Iceland before.

“These are all objects from the Viking age,” said Ragnheiður Gylfadóttir, an archaeologist with Iceland’s Institute of Archaeology, speaking with ruv.is.

When the team arrived at the site, she said, they quickly found rocks that looked like they could have been foundations for longhouse walls. In addition, they found remnants of human habitation, such as an ash pile and burned bones.

“We found a so-called ‘heinarbrýni.’ It’s a type of whetstone that was usually kept on the belt, used to sharpen needles, for example,” continued Gylfadóttir. “And we found a fragment from a soapstone pot.”

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Byzantine Tower In Istanbul Collapses

Credit: Hurriyet Daily News

A Byzantine tower in the centre of modern Istanbul [Constantinople] has collapsed while deep cracks have also appeared in the adjacent sections of the ancient walls.
Indeed, many sections of the Byzantine walls have likewise been left to crumble or have changed form due to modern 'restoration' projects.

The old city is surrounded by a total of 22 kilometre long walls in three main sections, namely, the 'Land Walls' on the west, the 'Golden Horn Walls' on the north and the 'Marmara Walls' in the south and east.

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